Our latest edition of a new weekly column here at SNY's Islanders Point Blank, as Andy Graziano and Brian Erni will trade opinions on two of the hot topics working their way around the Islanders and give their two cents.
The Isles picked up just three of a possible eight points this week, dropping games in Boston and Nashville, picking up a point in a shootout defeat in Pittsburgh, and beating Florida with a furious third period comeback. New York wraps up their road trip Saturday in Dallas before heading home to square off against Philadelphia and Ottawa.
Ryan Pulock scored his first NHL goal on Thursday night in Nashville and the early returns on him have been solid. Do you envision Pulock getting significant ice time in the playoffs?
I really do. At this point, I just don't see how you can keep him off the ice, outside of spelling him for some rest. He played nearly 16 minutes in Nashville on Thursday, and I don't see any reason why he can't carry a similar load in the postseason.
I've been really impressed with Pulock. He still needs some work in his own zone, but he's shown good poise there, all while keeping the puck moving in the right direction. His even strength Individual Corsi and Fenwick per 60 are third-best among Islanders defensemen. Once you factor in his laser of a shot that can be a very dangerous weapon both at 5-on-5 and on the power play, I have to think he's your sixth defenseman until Marek Zidlicky returns, and maybe even after that.
Andy Graziano, SNY.TV Twitter
Based on what Capuano has done in the past, I am going to have to disagree here Brian, and not because I want to. Pulock has been averaging about 14 minutes over the course of his first eight games as the team has eased him into the transition from the AHL to the NHL. And that transition, make no mistake, is very significant.
The Isles have strategically scratched him on occasion as well to keep Brian Strait and Marek Zidlicky (prior to his injury) as sharp as they can be. Last season, the Islanders were forced to use Scott Mayfield and Matt Donovan against Washington due to injuries. And while they performed admirably, they were overwhelmed at times.
I think if Pulock does crack the lineup he won't see more than 12 sheltered minutes. But I do admit he has been impressive, especially from an offensive standpoint. The goal last night was well deserved after a year where he has kept his mouth shut and continued to work hard while showing extreme patience with the entire process.
Mikhail Grabovski's return has given the Islanders some depth at the forward position. As the team heads down the stretch, which forward(s) should expect to see the most time on the bench?
Obviously, Steve Bernier will only get a few spot starts here and there, but as far as the regular forwards go, I wouldn't be surprised to see Grabovski's time take a hit. I know Ryan Strome hasn't played up to his potential this season and Brock Nelson was struggling before he finally scored on Thursday, but I feel like the young players need repetitions down the stretch. If you're going to trust them in the playoffs, you need to instill faith in them as the regular season winds down.
What's more, there are always durability concerns with Grabovski, so I don't see any harm in easing him back into it -- especially with the flurry of games the Islanders have coming down the stretch. His possession metrics, which are normally very strong, haven't been quite as good this season anyway, so it might behoove the Isles to send a little message to No. 84.
Andy Graziano, SNY.TV Twitter
I would have thought the easiest answer to this question had to be Shane Prince. But there are a number of other Islanders who are just not carrying their weight at both ends of the rink. We saw in Pittsburgh the other night that Brock Nelson was shown a seat. You could argue that Ryan Strome has been a passenger on many more occasions, though, and should have been the candidate. Maybe it's a combination of both who are going to sit down the stretch. At least Prince has shown some speed and hustle, especially in the defensive zone.
But this all becomes moot over the next little bit since Grabovski was sent back to New York Thursday with a flare up of the previous injury he had been rehabbing when the Islanders went on their extended Canada road trip. So it seems that Prince, Nelson and Strome all find some reprieve over the course of the next week, or at least until we hear something more definitive out of the Islanders regarding Grabovski's status.
During a three-year period between 2011 and 2013, Grabovski played in 96 percent of all eligible games. The past three seasons (one with Washington and nearly two full seasons with the Islanders), he has played only 71 percent. And that's definitely cause for concern due to the contract he is carrying.